About Us

Our Mission: Providing Ongoing Education and Prevention

Kids on the Block’s mission is to provide ongoing education and prevention through puppetry for children and the community at large. The core message in each program is to teach children acceptance of differences in themselves and in others.

The troupe uses life size puppets and performs 17 topics in the style of Bunraku puppetry. The puppeteers travel the state performing in schools, boys and girls clubs, and other community centers.  In 2019, 29,005 children in 20 counties viewed programs. The puppets bring children to a teachable moment by reflecting their hopes, fears, likes, and dislikes.

Other initiatives include owning and operating The Higgins Center for Nonprofits, free kids runs, a youth board for elementary aged children, and a monthly victim impact panel to combat driving under the influence.

Our History

Kids on the Block History

In 1977, special education teacher Barbara Aiello had a student, Anthony, with cerebral palsy who used a wheelchair. Anthony was bright, and Barbara felt that he was ready to be mainstreamed into a “regular” classroom. A few days later, Anthony told her he didn’t want to go back to that classroom because children ignored him, made fun of him and didn’t want to play with him.

While Anthony was academically prepared, teachers or children in the “regular” classroom weren’t prepared for Anthony. So, Barbara made a puppet with Anthony’s likeness, including his red hair and constructed a wheelchair out of garden hose and bicycle tires. Using the puppet, Barbara explained to his class why he looked different, talked differently and used a wheelchair. Kids on the Block was born the moment children began to raise their hands to ask the puppet character questions. When a hand was raised, a barrier came down. 

From there, Anthony’s puppet grew to a family of puppet characters and programs designed to help children understand and cope with sensitive issues.

Coming to Kentucky

Kentucky Kids on the Block was founded in 1985 by Jamie Gaddie Higgins and Alice Kummer. Jamie took her daughter, Heather, to a Spina Bifida Association Christmas party. Nashville Kids on the Block performed their “Accepting Differences” program. Heather, who has spina bifida, reacted in such a positive way, her mother reached out to her friend, Alice, about starting their own puppet troupe in Bowling Green.

The puppetry used by Kentucky Kids on the Block is based on a Japanese style of puppetry called Bunraku. Bunraku puppetry, using life sized puppets, is used to bring children to the teachable moment. Each year, Kentucky Kids on the Block presents 300 programs to approximately 30,000 children in 20 Kentucky counties. The programs blend humor with sensitivity to help children develop an attitude of understanding and acceptance toward others that will serve them the rest of their lives. Kids on the Block is housed in the Higgins Center for Nonprofits.

Our Team

Kids on the Block Staff

staff-ashley-reynolds-bio

Ashley Reynolds

Executive Director
staff-amanda-guerra-bio

Amanda Guerra

Director of Programs / Lead Puppeteer
staff-katie-van-zile-bio

Katie Van Zile

Puppeteer / Higgins Center Marketing
staff-regina-pedigo-bio

Regina Pedigo

Puppeteer /
Special Projects
staff-carly-dunn-bio

Carly Dunn

Grant Professional / Development Assistant
staff-jacob-chamberlain-bio

Jacob Chamberlain

Script
Writer

Haley Abell

Puppeteer /
Marketing

Board of Directors

Hannah Barahona
Realtor/Property Manager, 
Coldwell Banker Legacy Real Estate Group/Lawrence Investment Properties

Dotti Beth Lawrence
Retired Realtor

Amanda Blakeman
Attorney
Schuette Law Group

Ashley Lillard
Health Education Coordinator at Barren River District Health Department Kentucky Kids on the Block Position: Secretary

Alan Cooper
General Manager at WDNS/WLCT Radio
Kentucky Kids on the Block Position: Treasurer

Max Marley
Success Principles
Owner

Lisa Duffin-Rexroat
Associate Professor at WKU College of Education and Behavioral Sciences

Tracey Pharris
Market Lender, Assistant Vice President at BB&T/Trust Bank

Sherri Emberton
Accounting Controller at Scotty’s Contracting and Stone
Kentucky Kids on the Block Position:  Vice Chair, Treasurer

Angela Reeves
Franchise Owner of Wild Eggs

Kayla Fugate
Staff Attorney at Kentucky Department of Public Advocacy
Kentucky Kids on the Block Position: Chair

Ashley Reynolds
Executive Director of Kentucky Kids on the Block

Adam Galloway
Senior Vice President of Communication at German American Bank

Mary Vitale
Owner of New Millennium Real Estate, LLC

Erin Hiles

Bowling Green Chamber
Program and Events Coordinator

Barry Williams
Owner of Communication Systems

David Hosay
Account Manager at Sublime Media Group

Melodi Williams
Occupational Health Nurse

Michele Humphrey
Branch Manager of American Bank and Trust

David Witty
Realtor, Coldwell Banker Legacy Real Estate Group

Lauren Kummer
High School Assistance Counselor at Warren County Public Schools

Shanda Yates
Mortgage Loan Originator at South Central Bank

Advisors

Shelly Compton
Partner at Carr, Riggs, and Ingram, CPAs

Sandy Riley
Owner at Riley’s Bakery

Heather Higgins-Jeffrey

Steve Sutton
President of Chase Bank

John Kelly
Kelly Family Foundation

Mary Vitale
Owner of New Millennium Real Estate, LLC

Alice Kummer
Kentucky Kids on the Block Co-founder

Julie Wedge
Wedge Family Foundation

Mike Law
Materials Vice President of Scotty’s Contracting and Stone

Barry Williams
Owner of Communication Systems

Johna Rodgers
Consulting to Advisors

County Representatives

Allen County:

Matt Pedigo:
Owner/News Editor at Citizen Times of Scottsville

Barren County:

Kellie McKay
Radio DJ at Commonwealth Broadcasting

Jefferson County:

Julie Ann Rosing
Law Clerk at US District Court for Western District of Kentucky

Ashley Reynolds

Executive Director

“Passion is the difference between having a job or a career.” When Ashley Reynolds began her journey as the grant writer at Kids on the Block in 2013, she knew she had found her career. After being appointed Executive Director in 2014, she and the staff set a goal for a second troupe to be formed which would be primarily focused on child abuse prevention. That dream was realized when Kids on the Block received The Women’s Fund Impact Grant in 2019. Her favorite program is child abuse because she strongly believes the most immediate need facing our world is protecting children.

She loves being involved in the community and also serves as a Bowling Green Chamber of Commerce Ambassador, and on the Crime Stoppers Board of Directors.

Ashley enjoys teaching yoga, collecting antiques with her dad, going to concerts with her mom, and planning her next trip to the beach with her husband, sons, and two wild dogs.

Amanda Guerra

Director of Programs/Lead Puppeteer

I am a WKU graduate with a bachelor’s degree in Child and Family Studies. So I thought Kids on the Block would be a good fit for me. I started working at Kids on the Block as a puppeteer in June 2011. In 2014 I became the Director of Programs and Lead Puppeteer.

I enjoy presenting programs at schools because through puppetry I am able to bring children to a teachable moment that they don’t forget. The programs that I feel most passionate about teaching is the Child Abuse Prevention programs. These programs not only teach children about child abuse but also teach children how to get out of abusive situations.

The programs that I have the most fun presenting are the Accepting Differences (Campers program), Problem Solving, and Divorce programs. (Who am I kidding, they are all fun!) When I am not working I enjoy outdoors activities such as gardening, hiking and kayaking with my husband, daughter and our dog.

Katie Van Zile

Puppeteer

Hi there! Growing up overseas while my father served in the US Army, the only television that came on in English was Sesame Street and The Muppet Show. I’m a puppetry enthusiast from birth! I’m an alumnus of The Kentucky Governor’s School for the Arts, and that’s where my passion for arts outreach and nonprofit work really began to bloom. My favorite KOB program is Child Abuse Prevention. Knowing that my puppet skills can make a positive impact on the lives of the future of Kentucky means the world to me. When I’m not hanging out with my felt-covered friends, I’m working on my degree in theatre at Western Kentucky University. You might also catch me singing and dancing on stage, doing standup comedy, or baking sweets in the kitchen with my husband, Josh.

Regina Pedigo

Puppeteer/Special Projects

I have lived in Bowling Green most of my life. I married my husband in 1996 and we had our daughter in 2000. I had always worked with kids and would play with puppets and change my voice for the different characters in the books I would read to them. Little did I know God was preparing me for something greater. I started working with Kids on the Block on March 1, 2007. My favorite KOB program is Child Abuse Prevention. The pain of being abused follows a child the rest of their life and if just one child learns they can say no or learns that it’s ok to tell, then it is worth all the time we put into it. When I’m not at work I am very involved with my church where I currently lead the music and choir. I love to hike, camp, cook and sing. I have 2 dogs, 1 cat and a ball python.

Carly Dunn

Grant Professional / Development Assistant

I started working at Kids on the Block as a Development Intern January of 2021. As I was finishing my Bachelors of Arts in Theatre, I fell in love with the puppets! I loved everything we were doing, especially our work in Child Abuse Prevention. Following my graduation from WKU, I was brought on as a Development Assistant and Grant Professional. It’s been an amazing adventure since! 

When I’m not helping with the puppets, you might find me singing, reading, or geeking out over the latest theatre news. I also enjoy trying out new adventures with my husband, Reggie, our dog and two cats.

Jacob Chamberlain

Script Writer

I’m a WKU graduate with a dense history in arts administration, playwriting, and improv comedy. Every one of these skills lends itself to writing for Kentucky Kids On The Block. After being on, around, and in front of the stage, I have a keen perspective on what engages audiences of all ages. 

I love being able to use what I know to help kids learn, grow, and empower themselves. Being surrounded by such a driven and collaborative team makes this work feel even more important.